THE supply chain for agricultural commodities in south-east Queensland slowed to a crawl on Friday as widespread flooding cut highways and rail lines, and stopped shipping.
However, a let-up in the rain today is expected to allow the loading of containers and bulk grain on to vessels berthed in Brisbane. The Warrego Highway linking the Darling Downs and Brisbane reopened this morning.
The Brisbane River is in flood, and merchant vessels berthed near its mouth are not expected to move for another day or two, weather permitting.
In a statement issued today, Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) chief financial officer Neil Stephens said Brisbane’s Regional Harbour Master (RHM) has declared no movements in and out of the port, but this was being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Mr Stephens said PBPL will begin surveying critical navigational areas as soon as it is was safe to do so today.
“PBPL is also working with the RHM on a plan to remove debris in and around waterside infrastructure,” Mr Stephens said.
Rain and flooding has caused minor and superficial damage on a number of port roads across all precincts.
“It’s understood there are no access limitations on port roads at the moment.
“There are no rail movements in and out of the BMT (Brisbane Multi-modal Terminal) due to broader rail network issues; however the BMT itself remains operational.”
Loading resumes at QBT
Brisbane has two grain terminals, Wilmar’s Queensland Bulk Terminals (QBT) and GrainCorp’s Fisherman Islands.
Both are involved in a hectic wheat export program.
GrainCorp did not have a vessel on the berth when the deluge started last week, but QBT had the Venture Harmony arrive on Wednesday night to load a cargo for ETG bound for Bangladesh.
QBT general manager Brett Tomlinson said he was hoping it could start loading wheat into the hatches today.
“We hope to get empty this week so we can start intake again,” Mr Tomlinson said.
QBT receives grain for export by road only, and prior to the deluge, was due to start receiving wheat and sorghum tomorrow which is booked to load vessels arriving next month.
“It was to be from Tuesday; now it looks like Thursday.”
Pleasure craft all along the Brisbane River have broken their moorings in the flood, and two small yachts have washed into the Venture Harmony.
Mr Tomlinson said the bulk carrier and the QBT terminal appear to not have sustained damage from the flood or flotsam, but the lodged yachts will need to be removed by the harbour authority.
GWF Moorooka mill floods
Brisbane has two flour mills, GWF’s Moorooka mill at Yeerongpilly, and Allied Pinnacle’s mill at nearby Tennyson.
One industry source said the Moorooka mill is expected to be out of operation for around two weeks.
“Those bakeries it supplies still need to keep going, so the company will be trucking flour out of its other mills,” the source said.
That is likely to be Enfield in Sydney.
“There’s water on the ground level, but none of the milling equipment has been affected.”
Grain Central understands Allied Pinnacle’s mill is unaffected.
Trade, trucking juggle challenges
Stockfeed mills on the Darling Downs and in the Brisbane Valley are continuing to operate thanks to input stocks on hand, and the ability to deliver finished feed to a small number of homes.
Not all roads have been cut at once, and this means traders and transport operators have been able to consult to find pathways for some loads in and out.
Daltrans Bulk Haulage principal Dallas Kropp is based at Dalby, and manages a fleet of around 15 trucks including sub-contractors.
“Our demand is for wheat, and it’s going everywhere,” Mr Kropp said.
“It’s going to mills, and for export, and demand is solid.”
Much of the Daltrans fleet has been parked up since Friday because of the Warrego Highway being closed, and because of localised flooding on the Darling and Western Downs.
“We’ve pretty much gone to ground today.
“I have sent a couple of trucks out to Roma to pick up grain, but they could get stuck if the highway at Dalby gets cut.”
The Cunningham Highway linking Brisbane with Warwick was closed by floodwater yesterday, and it has been an option for some transport operators who have higher mass limit (HML) permits for the route.
Australian Choice Exports director James Hunt said trucking companies have been in contact to say the containers they’ve picked up from packers on the Downs are not moving.
“If the Warrego Highway is cut, they just can’t get to the port in a lot of cases,” Mr Hunt said.
He said congestion in Sydney’s Port Botany had already been disrupting the arrival times of some container vessels, most of which are carrying pulses and grains to South-east or North Asia.
Out of Brisbane, that is primarily sorghum bound for China, as well as some early mungbeans going to China and Vietnam.
“The stuff we’ve got packed and sitting on trucks can’t get there to meet the next vessel, so they will roll back to the next one.
“It’s a wait and watch for us.”